So many times I have people contact me asking the burning question of how to become an Event Planner and/or Wedding Planner. Most people are just coming off of a wedding they planned for a friend or their own wedding. Or they helped with a holiday party and want to do this ALL THE TIME.  And I watched JLo in The Wedding Planner and I want to do that! Heck! I would be super good at it! Besides I love to make everything look pretty.

First I’m going to ask you if you want to be a Planner, a coordinator or a designer. If you don’t know the difference then you are going to have to do a little research. You can read my blogs “Do I need an Event Planner or Coordinator or Designer?” Now can I be more than one? Yes, you can! Many Planners also do Coordination and Design. But it’s up to you what you want to get into.

The Evolution of Event Planning

Fabulous. Let’s take a trip back in time back in the day. When I was growing up events were done by the socialites and housewives. It was something people did that didn’t really have any real skill or education. Now before you get all in a tizzy, hear me out.  This was a time when women didn’t work full time and hold C level positions. Women were the wives of the C level positions. It was their job to entertain; to keep the house looking magazine perfect. When her husband came home and told her they were hosting the new client from overseas, it was her time to shine.

In the 80s and 90s, more women were in the workforce. Mostly in administrative roles. The wives now took their skills in keeping a household into the office. They not only kept everyone organized, but they were called upon to organize all these events directly for the company. There were also a group of women who sill stayed at home and took over the social aspect of events and weddings for all the working women who no longer had time to plan this all themselves.

How Did I Get Into This?

So how did I get where I am? I get asked this question a lot! In the 90s events were taking off like crazy. Everyone was throwing lavish events of all kinds. Budgets were rarely talked about. It was very much, “I want this, spare no expense.” Event planners and wedding planners were loving life and living the complete dream. This is where I officially started. I had done some low keyed events in the 80s but most of my planning and my actual career started in the 90s. One of my first jobs was marketing for a very large corporation in Texas. So there were lots of events that I went to and helped plan.

Then in college, I was the president of a sorority and planed some events. No that was NOT my major. But boy was it fun! The first corporate event I learned how to do was an international trade show. I was an engineering secretary and got told I was going to be in charge of a big tradeshow they did in China every year. They took me by the hand and walked me through everything that needed to be done. It was scary as hell! But so much fun! Then I ended up working for a travel company. Here I learned the ins and outs of travel and planning all the companies kick off meetings and parties. Yes, I ran stats and budget numbers and kept C Level management in check. But I had found my calling.

I then worked for a magazine. I got to plan the movie premieres, races, and everything else they had going on. It was fabulous! I then moved into the Health industry where I worked with the marketing team in doing tradeshows and other events within the organization. It was okay, but it’s not exactly what I wanted to do. So I went to work for a major meat packing company. Cattle buyers, pricing, events, travel. I got to plan it all! But something was missing.  By this time I had a good 10 years of event experience and was getting itchy. This was the time I decided to start my own business. “Merry We Meet.” I did a few things on the side while I kept my corporate job. My mother wanted me to do weddings. But my heart and mind were stuck in the corporate world.

My next job was an Event Producer! FINALLY!!!! After a few years with top clients, I became an Event Consultant. It was the most awesome job in the world. I got to work with companies all over the world. Yes I worked around the clock and the schedule about killed me, but it’s exactly what I wanted to be doing.  And I did that for 6 1/2 years. This was also the time I did my very first wedding! I did it for a co-worker. Then I did a brief training with a local catering/wedding company to get some exposure and learn the ropes. There was something about weddings that seemed magical.  But right about that time, I burned out pretty good.

I went to work for a software company and the Executive Assistant to the CEO position turned into me doing corporate events and running an international coding competition they put on every year. I was destined to stay in corporate events. I took a year off and went into staffing. See if I could do something different. Well. Did you know in staffing you get to plan job fairs and other open house events? Yep. Not getting away from it.

I moved to Montana and worked for a company for a few months doing recruiting and ended up helping with a few meetings they had. I got the bug back. And started Erika’s Event Planning. (Yes the name changed, it’s a long story that involves 9 wedding planners, a linen rep and a bottle or two of wine.) So that’s my story.  I did events for about 15 years before I decided to start my own company the first time while keeping my day job. And then a good 20 + years before I committed and ventured out on my own full time. It was a long exciting road. And I learned SO much from every single experience! Okay enough about me….let’s get back to you…

The 2000’s

Now let’s look at the 2000s. A new generation came to the forefront. This new generation is very conscious about their money and being in control of everything. They don’t like to give up the reins as quickly as their parents did. The event industry saw a bit of a shift. Clients became more demanding. They raised the bar on what they expected and to make sure they were getting their monies worth. You have social media and your competition is now in your face 24/7. You have to figure out how to stand out in a saturated career field.

This is all great, but what do I need to do??

Now the question. How do I get into event planning? Well, you can start doing events for the company you work with. Get on a committee, learn the ropes and eventually be in charge of your company’s event schedule. You can contact an event company and see if they have intern or assistant positions.  You can also take classes and do some formal training. They often assign you a mentor so you can learn the ropes and be able to ask lots of questions.

Before you actually charge people for a service you better know what you are doing. Planning your own wedding or putting together a birthday party for a friend is VERY different than creating a contract, charging for a service and knowing what to do when things go bad to a group of strangers.

What skills do I need to become a planner?

  • Personable.  You need to know how to talk to people and read people. You need tact and diplomacy.
  • A good listener. The main part of being an event planner is listening to what the client wants and what vendors need.
  • Be able to separate your taste and wants from your client’s tastes and wants. You don’t get to do every event like it’s your own. They give you stuff you may hate. You have to make them love it….not you.
  • Organized. Beyond belief!
  • Multitasking. Can you do 15 things at once? How are you when you are pulled in 12 different directions?
  • Business Savvy. You need to know the ins and outs of business. After all, you are working with many vendors and clients.
  • Sales and Marketing. You are going to have to sell your service, ideas, why their idea isn’t going to work. You have to get what you do out there.
  • Budgeting. Not just your client’s budget but your personal budget.
  • Follow through and punctual. If you say it, you better do it. And don’t be late!
  • Creative. Not necessarily as far as decor, although it helps to have some sense of a creative eye. You need to be creative in making things work. Fixing things that go awry.
  • Think fast on your feet.  12 people are going to come at you with issues. You need to figure it out quick!
  • Stay calm cool and collective under pressure. If you don’t do well under pressure you may want to reconsider!

This is just a short list of the skills you need. It’s by no means a full list. But I just want people to realize that it’s not a mindless job that you don’t need education and skills for. The women back in the day who were in charge of their husband’s social lives were masters of all the above. They played a role and may have seemed like they were ditsy and clueless, but nothing got by these women!

A few points to review:

  • Make sure you get trained and/or educated
  • Work under another planner or for an organization before you try to go off on your own. Every profession takes time and years of training. You can’t expect to do this overnight.
  • Do not undercut your competition
  • Yes it’s competitive but there is enough business for everyone, so befriend the seasoned planners! Think support system and referrals!
  • Don’t step on other vendor’s toes. Your job is to make the team of vendors for the event work together. Don’t do something to jeopardize that.
  • RESPECT your clients, peers and vendors. Work by the event code of ethics.  ABC Code of Ethics
  • Always keep learning. No matter how many years you are in the business there is always something to learn. This industry changes like crazy!
  • Make sure you enjoy yourself. When something stops being fun….don’t do it anymore!

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